Thanks to chisel plowing, minimum tillage and no-till, most reports indicate moldboard plows have gone the way of the dinosaurs, at least in the eastern Corn Belt. Still popular in some places, moldboard plows are available for sale from a few companies.
Well-used plows often sell for a fraction of their original cost at farm auctions. Several have ended up in scrapyards, and no-tillers are fond of showing pictures of rusty moldboard plows parked under shade trees, sometimes even with a rusty chain tied around the plow frame and tree.
Given that background, it surprised me when the auctioneer at the recent Kelsay Farms auction introduced four International moldboard plows. The Ritchie Brothers auctioneer, selling to a live crowd and on the internet, offered choice of any of the four. Bidders could choose from an International Model 720 five-bottom plow, a 730 six-bottom plow, a 700 eight-bottom plow and an 800 nine-bottom plow. Some had the two-point hitch used by IH; others had a pintle hitch. All were of late-1970s to 1980s vintage, before International Harvester and Case merged.
If any of the four brought $1,000, I would have been surprised. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one or more knocked off for a couple hundred bucks. Instead, bidding was brisk — at least, much brisker than I expected.
The top bidder paid $2,750 for the nine-bottom plow. Before the auctioneer could sell choice again, someone on the internet paid $2,750 for the five-bottom. The remaining pair brought $1,250 each, with one selling to someone in the crowd and one selling via internet. Whether that’s high or not, you decide. Compared to what I expected, it was definitely a hot market for moldboard plows.
What that says in terms of tillage trends today, if anything, I’m not sure. It might speak to the regard people have for International moldboard plows. When some plows were having trouble turning under stalks of more productive corn crops, the IH 700 Series would move through stalks, even in the fall, without plugging up.
I know. My dad purchased one for that reason, and it did a good job. Yes, back in the late ’70s and very early ’80s, my father still moldboard plowed.
BUILD REPUTATION: International Harvester plows began building a reputation as quality implements decades ago.
International Harvester began earning a reputation for plows that didn’t plug easily with the McCormick 60 and 70 trailing moldboard plows in the mid-’50s and ’60s. Literature from the period promotes the Model 60 as a popular-priced model for most “soil and trash” conditions. It wasn’t residue then — it was trash. The Model 70 was positioned as a heavy-duty plow for “tougher plowing in heaviest trash.”
The center spread of one brochure for these models is headlined “Biggest working clearance in the field ... for fast, non-plug plowing.” These plows featured 27 inches of vertical clearance and big diagonal clearance. The main picture places arrows between two bottoms with the claim “Trash pours through.”
‘TRASH CLEARANCE’: Yes, in the 1950s cornstalks were trash, not residue. This brochure for IH Model 60 and 70 moldboard plows emphasizes superior “trash clearance.”
If you were going to buy a used plow, an IH plow would be a good choice. I can say that from experience. Whether moldboard plowing is set to make a comeback, and whether the plows sold at auction recently were representative of true market prices — that remains to be seen.
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